Top Technology: iPad
Apple’s first iPad was greeted with skepticism from analysts and the press until it went on sale in early April and quickly established a new product category, drew competing brands and rival operating systems into the market, and — like the iPod and iPhone before it — had a game-changing impact on related CE product segments. The iPad created accessory sales, created competition for e-readers and purpose-built homecontrol touchscreens, and began to cannibalize netbook and laptop sales.
Top Newsmaker: Steve Jobs
Despite medical leaves of absence in 2009 and 2011, Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs was on the job in 2010 to launch the iPad and do for the tablet market what he did for the MP3 player and smartphone markets. Jobs didn’t invent the first MP3 player, but it was his iPod that drove portable audio sales to never-before-seen sales levels. He didn’t invent the first smartphone, but the iPhone ignited smartphone demand and spawned the rival Android operating system. And he didn’t invent the first tablet, but he found a new market for it by repositioning it as a simple-to-use media-consumption device.
Top Technology: 3DTV
Although the launch of the first 3D high-definition TVs with support for a new class of Blu-ray Disc 3D players wouldn’t come until March 2010, the industry spent much of the year leading up to the launch hyping the new technology to come. The effort was given a welcomed boost when director/producer James Cameron’s 3D sci-fi thriller “Avatar” set major box-office records and whetted appetites for equipment that could bring the experience home. Panasonic, Samsung and Sony struck deals with 3D movie producers to support their forthcoming efforts.
Top Newsmaker: Barack Obama
During International CES, right before he took office, President-elect Barack Obama pushed back the transition to all digital television broadcasting from Feb. 17 to June 12. Obama was concerned that millions of economically hard-pressed Americans with analog TVs had not yet received converter boxes to continue viewing free overthe- air programming when the proverbial DTV switch was thrown. The transition was eventually completed with less complication than many had expected. Later, President Obama would push a national broadband agenda with the Federal Communications Commission looking for affordable technologies and policies to provide Internet access to all Americans.
Top Technology: Blu-ray
After a two-year format battle, Blu-ray officially disposed of its rival HD DVD when its primary backer, Toshiba, dropped the format in February. Blu-ray won when retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy and Netflix, along with Hollywood studios, chose it over the competition. The first Blu-ray players shipped in mid-2006.
Top Newsmakers: Circuit City & Tweeter
The slow demise of Circuit City and Tweeter over the course of 2008 include lowlights such as CEO Phil Schoonover stepping down in September and the chain filing for bankruptcy one month later. The end for the storied chain came quickly. The chain owed more than $2.3 billion to creditors and was shuttered and liquidated by March 2009. Tweeter’s end came even faster. It filed for bankruptcy protection in November and ended up shuttering all its stores by mid December.
Top Technology: iPhone
As TWICE senior editor Joseph Palenchar wrote in our July 2 issue, “The iPhone began redefining the smartphone market even before its launch, and it may serve as a lesson to a consumer electronics industry … that price is not everything.” While consumers swooned over the smartphone’s debut, retailers were dismayed to be left out in the cold as it launched exclusively through Apple’s stores and AT&T.
Top Newsmaker: Sirius XM
Mel Karmazin (right) was frequently in the headlines when Sirius and XM formally confirmed in February 2007 what many in the industry had long suspected: They intended to merge. The satellite radio companies cited consumer choice and corporate cost saving as the two primary reasons for the decision, which ended up taking until March 2008 to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
Top Technology: HD Optical Discs
A good old-fashioned format war was the highlight of 2006 with two high-definition optical disc formats: HD DVD, backed by Toshiba, Microsoft and Intel, and Blu-ray, backed by just about everyone else in the industry. In the end — right after the 2008 International CES – Toshiba waived the white flag and another format war ended.
Top Newsmaker: Phil Schoonover
Phil Schoonover got his dream job – chairman, president and CEO of Circuit City. Unfortunately it wasn’t 1996 or 1986 when Circuit was riding high. When Schoonover – a Sony, Best Buy and Tops Appliance veteran – took control, the winds of change were already buffeting the CE chain. The chain posted an annual and Q4 loss in a year when CE overall, led by HDTV sales, was booming. Things quickly spiraled out of control with the chain closing its doors in 2009.
Top Technology: iPod
2005 saw the iPod fully integrate into the mainstream. Apple’s profits soared as a result of the high sales numbers from the line. In an effort to keep the streak alive, the manufacturer moved to diversify its offerings with introductions of lowerpriced models like its iPod Shuffle, as well as higher-end models with extra features like the video-capable iPod.
Top Newsmaker: Mark Wattles
The former founder and CEO of Hollywood Entertainment caused quite a stir in the industry as a result of his handling of Ultimate Electronics. Shortly after he organized a takeover of Ultimate, the high-end CE retailer was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Once the chain was forced to liquidate in April, Wattles stepped up and took control of the chain by purchasing 32 of the remaining 62 stores at $47 million.
Top Technology: Satellite Radio
The competition between XM and Sirius continued to climb as Sirius promised to have 1 million subscribers by the end of the year and corralled Howard Stern, while XM promised Major League Baseball. New products included the first satellite radio unit with a 30-minute buffer (Delphi XM SkyFi2), and the first personal plug-and-play receiver that could convert to a Walkman-style headphone stereo with the addition of a snap-on rechargeable battery pack that included an antenna.
Top Newsmaker: Brad Anderson
Best Buy’s Brad Anderson helped unveil the groundbreaking customer centricity format in 2004. The program altered the retailing giant’s corporate culture by focusing on the most profitable customer groups and by training the store employees to provide better service to them.
Top Technology: Digital Photography
This was the year that digital cameras outsold film cameras, the first consumer-priced digital-SLRs from Canon and Nikon were introduced, and the first digital “single use” camera debuted. Digital photography truly became mainstream.
Top Newsmaker: Gateway
Ted Waitt, founder and CEO of Gateway, drove the company aggressively into brick-and-mortar retailing with the ill-fated Country Stores and pursued a “disruptive” pricing strategy as it pushed into consumer electronics business. Gateway’s CE in-roads mirrored the other PC makers’ — notably Dell and HP — more aggressive stance toward the consumer electronics market.
Top Technology: Peer-To-Peer Networking
The music industry fought back against illicit downloading via peer-topeer networks such as Napster and Limewire by suing individual file sharers and launching approved digital download services. Napster was acquired by music giant Bertlesmann, in an $8 million deal, to be converted into a paid service.
Top Newsmakers: CEA president Gary Shapiro, FCC Chairman Michael Powell
The two men navigated the trenches of tuner mandates for digital TVs. By year’s end CEA and the NCTA agreed on standards for national digital cable interoperability and the first cable-ready sets were previewed by Panasonic.
Top Technology: XM Satellite Radio
After years of planning and development, satellite radio finally got off the ground (pun intended) with the launch of XM Satellite Radio service in October, led by CEO Hugh Panero (right).
Top Newsmaker: iPod
There were lots of worthy contenders in 2001: satellite radio, Windows XP, GameCube and Xbox, to name a few. But top honors for this or any year must surely go to Apple’s iPod, which made a less than auspicious debut on Nov. 10, 2001. At the time, industry observers liked its looks but figured that its prohibitive $400 price tag and operational shackling to Macs and iTunes would limit its popularity to hard-core Apple devotees.
Top Technology: Satellite Radio
In 2000, satellite radio was just getting off the ground. Literally. Both Sirius and XM launched their first satellites that year, marking the initial volleys in what would become, just a scant five years later, a $2.5 billion business in subscription and receiver sales. In another milestone, XM opened its 150,000-square-foot broadcast center in Washington and demonstrated its first prototype satellite car radio.
Top Newsmaker: Bill Kennard
2000 was a watershed year for HDTV, when broadcasters, cable operators, content providers and CE manufacturers agreed on compatibility standards. It was no mean feat, and credit must go to then Federal Communications Commission chairman Bill Kennard (left) for cajoling, brow-beating and plain out threatening the warring factions into some semblance of accord.
Top Technology: Sony Mavica
Sony’s Mavica digital camera totally dominated sales in the digital camera category for the year.
Top Newsmaker: Carly Fiorina
Carly Fiorina became the first woman ever to head a Dow 30 firm when she was named president of Hewlett-Packard.
Top Technology: HDTV
The Panasonic PT-56wfx90 HDTV went on sale at Dow Stereo/ Video in San Diego with a $5,499 price tag.
Top Newsmaker: Microsoft
300,000 units of Microsoft’s Windows 98 operating system sold during its first three days on the market.
Top Technology: DVD
After numerous false starts, the DVD format finally arrived when Samsung introduced a $699 player in February.
Top Newsmaker: Warren Lieberfarb
Warner Home Video president Warren Leiberfarb helped to navigate a successful launch for the DVD format by ensuring that DVD video titles were available for a staggered rollout.
Top Technology: DVD
Although ongoing copy-protection talks would ultimately delay the DVD format’s release until the following year, manufacturers lined up prototypes of players they would use to stake a claim to the new optical disc pie.
Top Newsmaker: Charlie Ergen
EchoStar chairman and founder Charlie Ergen helped change the future direction of satellite-TV marketing when he launched an unprecedented $199 equipment promotion that required subsidizing equipment costs to land subscribers to his fledgling Dish Network.
Top Technology: Windows 95
The multimedia home PC craze was exemplified by the consumer demand and retail hoopla for the nationwide “midnight madness” debut of Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system.
Top Newsmaker: The DVD Format
Member companies of the Super Density DVD group, led by Toshiba, Matsushita, and the Multimedia CD group backed by Sony and Philips, fought over the eventual, unified DVD format.
Top Technology: DSS TV
RCA’s Digital Satellite System (now known as DirecTV) ushered in the era of digital television and an alternative to broadcasting and cable services.
Top Newsmaker: Joe Clayton
Thomson Consumer Electronics veteran Joe Clayton worked long and hard in 1994 to make the RCA Digital Satellite System’s debut at retail a success.
Top Technology: The Internet
In 1993, the Internet was populated mainly by early adopters. Modems were just starting to become standard equipment on computers. p
Top Newsmaker: Trip Hawkins
3DO president and CEO Trip Hawkins helped lead the charge to create new multimedia video game machines.
Top Technology: Home PCs
The PC, fueled by Intel’s ubiquitous 486 processor, was embarking on a meteoric rise, as it entered mass merchants at price points less than $1,000.
Top Newsmaker: John Sculley
The CEO of Apple led the charge in the birth of the low-cost PC and the new handheld PDA.
Top Technology: Game Boy
Nintendo’s Game Boy grew into a $700 million business and established the handheld portable gaming system category as a profit center.
Top Newsmaker: Blockbuster Blockbuster
Video’s chairman H. Wayne Huizenga led his six-year-old chain to a huge leap in the TWICE Regisrty of Leading Industry Retailers, to No. 6, from No. 15, increasing sales 78 percent to $1.1 billion.
Top Technology: Laser Disc
The battle over the term “laser disc” finally ended as Philips and Pioneer settled on the generic term, allowing vendors and retailers to use a single banner to promote the digital technology.
Top Newsmaker: RadioShack
RadioShack chairman John Roach led the CE retailing powerhouse into the new decade with a nimble merchandising strategy in budding categories such as plain-paper faxes, laser disc players and personal computers.
Top Technology: Atari Lynx
The Atari Lynx became the world’s first handheld video game system with a color screen.
Top Newsmaker: Crazy Eddie
Eddie Antar and other executives at New York area retailer Crazy Eddie were charged with fraud and insider trading by the SEC. The chain eventually announced plans to file for Chapter 11.
Top Technology: Pioneer LD-W1 Dual-Disc Player
Pioneer launched the LD-W1 dual-disc laser disc player, the first two-disc laser disc player to play each side of a disc without requiring consumers to physically flip it.
Top Newsmaker: Jerry Pearlman
Zenith chairman Jerry Pearlman implored Congress to subsidize American companies’ R&D into HDTV technology and thus help preserve the jobs created by the U.S. TV set industry in the wake of an influx of low-price foreign-made TVs.
Top Technology: New Video Formats
Super-VHS VCRs and CD-Video players and software debuted. but despite marketer promises, neither product made it to market in any significant way in 1987.
Top Newsmaker: Jack Welch
GE chairman Jack Welch turned his company from an also-ran in consumer electronics to the nation’s biggest marketer of color TVs and VCRs in his deal for RCA, and then disposed of the business.
Top Technology: Stereo Color TV
Consumer demand for color TV with built-in stereo audio decoding was strong, topping 1 million units sold by year end.
Top Newsmaker: Don Johnstone
Don Johnstone, president of North American Philips Consumer Electronics, completed a two-year restructuring that put the operation back into the black.